The many-eyed Icarus.

July 31, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Today - and another lovely result of NOT mowing our lawn(s), presented itself to me.

Look... I generally don't tend to mow vast areas of both our large back and smaller front lawns but this year, I've not even needed to leave a lot of lawn uncut. With only a dozen or so millimetres of rain since mid May - the grass has stopped growing (I've not mowed anything at all since May) but then again so have the little flowers that dot our "lawns" in their hundreds - flowers like birds foot trefoil and white clover - both of which are KEY food plants for the larval stage of the butterfly that I noticed (again) in the garden today.

I'm rambling - but look at the photo below and see whether (or not) YOU can spot the superb visitor to our scorched garden this morning.


Let me help....



A little closer then... (Not the best photo I know... but I wasn't carrying the right kit at the time!)


This is a 2nd generation, female, Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus Icarus, coming into our scorched garden to lay her eggs in amongst the pretty burned (this year) trefoil and clover.

For the record, the literal meaning of this beautiful butterfly's scientific name is "adorned or furnished with many eyes" (Polyommatus), Icarus son of Daedalus of Greek myth (Icarus). The "many-eyed" part of the scientific name of this butterfly refers of course to the many marks or spots or eyes on the underside of the wings of many of the blue or Argus butterflies. Incidentally - the Argus (or Argos!) butterflies are similarly named after their many eyes - Argus was the "all-seeing, 100-eyed giant" in Greek mythology.

Many of our butterflies (and moths) as briefly described here, will be suffering because of this summer's dry, hot weather - and the Common Blue will be no different I fear. I watched this 2nd generation female flutter daintily through our scorched grass for a few minutes today, stopping on suitable burnt-up trefoil fronts to lay her eggs (see photo below of her ovipositing in our garden this morning).

If I couldn't see her egg-laying this morning, I could've told she was female as she had brown/blue wings with orange marks along the back edges. Males are far bluer and brighter.

I could also tell she was a Common Blue (rather than a similar brown argus for example),

by the fact that she exhibited the characteristic extra spot on the ventral side of her forewings. (See my photo above again below, with this extra spot (or "eye") pointed out) and a webpage photo demonstrating this too.


Anyway - it was a delight to see this Common Blue butterfly in our scorched garden again this morning. Common they are not any more - especially in gardens, which are invariably mown (and sometimes even rolled!) to within an inch of their lives in Britain.

Both our lawns are normally awash in June with yellow birds foot trefoil and white clover flowers - and I leave them quite deliberately  - for animals such as this to exploit.

A reminder to me too.... even if we do get a wet August (highly doubtful) and/or September (more likely) - to leave the "lawns" unmown - for there'll be hidden wee common blue caterpillars that I need to look after!


Finally - if you, like me, leave big patches of grass unmown -or mown like a sheep would graze (mow once or twice a season) - and you have meadow flowers like me, growing in your "lawn" - now's the time to look out for the 2nd generation Common Blues - especially if you live in the south of the UK (further north and there tends to only be one generation).

Invariably people will see a blue butterfly in their garden and immediately call it a Common Blue (as the name implies that butterfly is most-often seen) or a Small Blue (as ALL blue butterflies are small), but 90% of the time, the blue butterfly that they'll have seen is the VERY common HOLLY BLUE butterfly.

The Common blue is almost always FAR harder to spot in gardens (or anywhere!) than the holly blue - and dare I say it... is a far more superior butterfly all round!

Keep 'em peeled grapple fans.

Use your eyes!



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